In a Commons statement, the Prime Minister confirmed that preparations were accelerating to get the country set for a new role outside the bloc.
Two Government “white paper” documents yesterday laid out proposals for a UK customs regime and trade policy that can be swiftly put in place in the event of a failure to agree a new deal with the EU.
“While I believe it’s profoundly in all our interests for the negotiation to succeed, it is also our responsibility to prepare for every eventuality and that is exactly what we are doing,” Mrs May told MPs.
Brexit discussions between British and EU officials – currently deadlocked over the size of a multi-billion divorce bill and other preliminary issues – resumed in Brussels yesterday ahead of a crunch EU summit next week that will decide whether enough progress has been made to move on to the issue of the future trade relationship.
She said “leadership and flexibility” were needed in the negotiations but was hopeful the UK and the EU could agree a “deep and special partnership” that would benefit both sides.
“I am optimistic we will receive a positive response because what we are seeking is not just the best possible deal for us, but also the best possible deal for our European friends too,” she said.
The Whitehall policy papers set out plans for a Customs Bill that will give the Government powers to charge duty on goods, amend VAT and excise regimes and vary rates of customs duty and any quotas.
Mrs May confirmed that preparations were accelerating to get the country set
It stated the Government “intends to introduce legislation that would allow the UK to operate stand-alone customs and indirect tax regimes as we withdraw from the EU.
“This will include the power to set customs duties, tariff rate quotas and preferences, as well as wider tariff-related provisions,” it added.
A series of “contingency” options set out in the document sketched out a customs regime that could be swiftly put in place in the event of no EU deal.
“The Government will work to ensure trade flows through the ports as seamlessly as possible,” the customs document said.